TBI Well-being: Why modesty is overrated in TV

In this month’s Well-being column, former BBC Studios exec and corporate wellness coach Tracy Forsyth tackles how to effectively discuss achievements and sell your skills and projects.

In my work as creative mentor and leadership coach, I often come across people who are uncomfortable at the thought of talking about their achievements for fear of looking arrogant or appearing boastful. These are people who are otherwise ambitious, driven and talented but instantly clam up when asked to talk about what they are proud of and what they have to offer. They know they have to be able to sell themselves to get new jobs or that promotion, but just can’t do it without feeling awkward. So, how do you boast about yourself without feeling like you are showing off?

1. Get over yourself. Seriously. We work in the communication business: as producers, we create, write tantalising one-pagers and pitch our hearts out. As distributors, we sell and spin with all the verve and passion we can muster. As broadcasters, we promote and market our content saying ‘this show is the greatest!’ to annihilate the competition. We are skilled at this, so use those skills on yourself. If you were a top-shelf product with proven effectiveness, would you make excuses for it and hide it behind other products? Of course not. Imagine you are that one-page treatment you’ve got to pitch to the commissioner; the hot new format you want to sell to clients globally; or the next BBC One drama you have to promote. What would you say to have the greatest effect?

We work in the communication business: as producers, we create, write tantalising one-pagers and pitch our hearts out. As distributors, we sell and spin with all the verve and passion we can muster. As broadcasters, we promote and market our content saying ‘this show is the greatest!’ to annihilate the competition. We are skilled at this, so use those skills on yourself.

2. Become your own agent. Understand that no one else is going to do this for you. You are responsible for your own promotion, press and PR. Talent and hard work will get you so far but if you are going to wait to be recognised and promoted, you may be waiting a long time. Reserve some time and energy to develop your own PR strategy. That means working on a CV and LinkedIn profile overhaul; grafting to get the elevator pitch about yourself honed and practiced; and making time in the diary to network and have lunches, coffees and drinks to tell people what you’re up to and passionate about.

3. Mind your language. If you find it hard to say ‘I achieved this’ or ‘I’m good at that’, then change your approach. Talk about a project or role in terms of your passion for it, the challenges you faced, the difficulties you overcame and the satisfaction you had at the end. Explain the impact your work had on others and what others have said about it. This way, you will be talking about your real experiences authentically and naturally and the achievement will speak for itself.

4. Put yourself in an employer’s shoes. People are normally thinking about themselves, not you. You being able to talk about your achievements makes it easy for them to see why you are an asset. People want to work with successful talent who can deliver: it makes their life easier. Think of how your achievements can help them. What are the things you’ve achieved that could mean they’d want you on their team? Employers won’t think you are boastful or a show-off if they are hearing things that are going to solve their problems.

5. Celebrate and enjoy your successes along the way. Don’t diminish them by trying to bat them away or hiding them under the proverbial bushel. Most people in this industry are very driven but that can mean as soon as one challenge is met, they are on to the next without so much as a backward glance. Consider this: if you knew a kid who studied really hard and got fantastic exam results or practiced every day and passed a piano grade with distinction, you would congratulate them and celebrate with them, wouldn’t you? Because they deserve it. And so do you. So, when it comes to your achievements and what you are good at, I say be proud, be loud, be passionate and be happy.

Tracy is a creative mentor for the Channel 4 Indie Growth Fund, the producer of the WFTV mentoring scheme and a professional executive coach. Follow her at walterwootze.com

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